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raditional publishing is a combination of luck, talent, timing, salesmanship and how well you write. Stories abound about novelists who pitch their proposals to fifty agents and forty publishers only to receive a stack of form letter rejections, if anything at all. Ask all the published novelists of today about their climb up the publishing ladder. None were immune to the process.

Then there are all the poets who are told that poetry isn't selling and few publishers are interested. And who buys short stories anymore?

What if there was a better way to become published?

Contests take place all over the world for book-length material, with the first prize being a publishing contract. Many writers balk at them because they charge entry fees. Get over that, my friend. In a recent search of the FundsforWriters archives, only ten no entry fee contests were found for novel-length material. That's after searching through thousands of listings. Stop and think…you can spend $1,000+ self-publishing your book with no promotional help to back you, or you can pay an entry fee and enter your book in a competition that wants to publish and promote your work.

“...a good barometer to show that someone other than me likes the work.”

Contests like these can catapult a career. I'm going first person here to tell you about my experience. I've just completed the first of a series of mysteries, a multi-year project. My queries are bouncing around on every agent's desk in America. At the same time, I've entered numerous contests. While I've lost several, I've placed third in one and actually won an opening line contest with my novel's first chapter hook, collecting checks for both. And my new queries to agents now include those awards, a good barometer to show that someone other than me likes the work.

If you are devoted to your book, with a passion that keeps you awake at night, why not invest in contest entry fees when you have the chance at a royalties contract to propel you into the world as an "author?" Don't have the money? You can surely blog for a few bucks, write articles online or publish magazine features and columns, earmarking your earnings for competitions. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Black Orchid Novella Award
Black Orchid Award
Each entry must be an original unpublished work of fiction that conforms to the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series. Entries must be 15,000 to 20,000 words in length, and submitted by the deadline. Deadline May. Prize - $1,000 from Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine plus, publication in the magazine.

Black River Chapbook Competition
A semiannual competition. Finalists selected by Black Lawrence Press and Adirondack Review staff. The prize is $300 and publication, with 25 copies going to the winner. Deadlines are November 30 (fall) and May 31 (spring) of each year. Submit manuscript of 16-40 pages of poetry.

Delacorte Prize
The prize of a book contract (on the Publisher's standard form) for a hardcover and a paperback edition, including an advance and royalties, will be awarded to encourage the writing of contemporary or historical fiction set in North America, for readers age 9—12. The award consists of $1,500 in cash and a $7,500 advance against royalties. The contest is open to U.S. and Canadian writers who have not previously published a novel for middle-grade readers. Deadline June each year.

Dzanc Prize
A monetary award to a writer with both a work in progress, and an interest in performing some form of literary community service. The award itself will be a total of $5,000 to be distributed in two payments over the course of a twelve month period. The purpose of this prize is to give monetary aid to a writer of literary promise, in order to provide a budgetary cushion for them, allowing the author to concentrate his/her efforts on the completion of their work in progress. Deadline November 1, 2007.

Emily Dickinson First Book Award
The Poetry Foundation seeks one book-length poetry manuscript to be published in the Emily Dickinson Poetry Series. The competition is open to any American citizen 50 years of age or over who has not previously published a book-length volume of poetry. In addition to publication and promotion of the manuscript, the winner will receive a prize of $10,000. Submissions accepted: May 15—June 15 each year.

Gival Press Novel Award
Deadline May each year. Submissions of a previously unpublished original (not a translation) novel in English must be approximately 30,000 to 100,000 words of high literary quality. Author will receive $3,000 and his/her novel will be published by Gival Press. He/she will receive 20 copies of the publication. A standard contract is offered.

Good Read Fiction Novel Contest
If you want a critique of your work, pay an additional $50 fee (total of $75). Several contests throughout the year. Submit only the first 100 pages of your novel and a detailed, chapter-by-chapter plot synopsis for the entire novel. One award of $500 will be awarded to the book judged best by the editors. Winner will also receive publishing aids and a letter of commendation.

Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize
A $12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf in 2009 awarded to the best previously unpublished, full-length work of literary nonfiction by a writer not yet established in the genre. Submissions must arrive in the Graywolf offices between September 1-30, 2007.

Katherine Anne Porter Prize
The winner of this annual award will receive $1,000 and publication by UNT Press. Entries can be a combination of short-shorts, short stories, and novellas, from 100 to 200 book pages in length (word count 27,500 to 50,000). Deadline August 29, 2007.

Lee and Low New Voices Award
The Award will be given for a children's picture book story by a writer of color. The Award winner will receive a cash grant of $1,000 and a standard publication contract. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500. Deadline October 31, 2007. Manuscripts should be no more than 1,500 words in length. Submissions may be FICTION or NONFICTION for children ages 5 to 12. Folklore and animal stories will not be considered.

Patricia Bibby First Book Award
$1,000 and book publication. The competition is open to all poets writing in English who have not committed to publishing collections of poetry of 36 poems or more in editions of over 400 copies. Entries of 50—84 pages of original poetry in English must be postmarked by October 31, 2007.

“Contests are a marketing tool for these presses, so quite of few of them have one.”

Perugia Press Poetry Chapbook Competition
Prize: $1,000 and publication. Send between 48 and 72 pages. Poet must be a living US resident and a woman. Poet must have no more than one previously published book of poems. Chapbooks and books in other genres do not count. Entry must be postmarked between August 1 and November 15.

The Rhea and Seymour Gorsline Poetry Competition
The winning poet receives a $500 prize and publication of her or his book-length manuscript. Deadline August 16, 2007. This is a first-book contest. A published book of over 40 pages of poetry makes the poet ineligible.

Silverfish Review Gerald Cable Book Award
This prize is awarded annually to a book length manuscript of original poetry by an author who has not yet published a full-length collection. There are no restrictions on the kind of poetry or subject matter; translations are not acceptable. Winners will receive $1,000, publication, and 100 copies of the book. Deadline October 15, 2007.

Snake Nation Press
Deadline in April. No more than 50,000 word novella or 200 page manuscript of short stories. Previously published works may be entered. $1,000 award and publication.

St Lawrence Book Award
Open to any writer who has not yet published a full-length collection of short stories or poems. Deadline August 31. The winner of this contest will receive book publication, a $1,000 cash award, ten copies of the book, and an interview in The Adirondack Review.

Writing for Children Competition
For all Canadian writers who have not been published in book format in any genre and who do not have a contract with a book publisher. Deadline April. Any writing for children up to 1,500 words, English language. Entries of the winner and finalists will be submitted to three publishers of children's books. $1,500 top prize.

You now have a list of opportunities for your book to compete in children's writing, fiction, nonfiction, short stories and poetry contests. Note that these competitions are particularly popular with small independent presses. Contests are a marketing tool for these presses, so quite of few of them have one. To find a comprehensive list of these presses, see You can sign up for newsletter updates with many, so you won't let a deadline rush past you.

Don't discard writing competitions for your manuscript. They might be the interim opportunity that shortcuts you to publication, and holding that long-awaited book in your hands.




C. Hope Clark is editor of, a service that reaches over 18,000 writers around the world per week with its newsletters about grants, contests, markets and calls for submissions.


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